Eulogy for Sister Janice Koelzer: June 20, 1934-Sept. 1, 2016

September 2, 2016 by

Sister Janice Koelzer

Sister Janice Koelzer

VIGIL: Friday, Sept. 2, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Marilyn Wall

Good evening and welcome!

We are here to remember and celebrate the life, love and service of our Sister Janice Koelzer. As I was preparing this, I was mindful of Maxim 73.

“Live your life with one desire only: to be always what God wants you to be, in nature, grace and glory, for time and eternity.”

Janice’s life attests to this maxim.

On June 20, 1934, Janice Mary Koelzer was born at home at 214 S. 5th St. in Seneca, Kan., to Urban and Georgeina Hogue Koelzer.

She was preceded by a brother and two sisters: Tom, Gerrie and Jane. Her sister Jo was to follow nine years later.

Janice relates that in early childhood, she was her dad’s companion, especially when her brother and sisters did not want her with them.

When Janice was 5 she fell out of a rowboat on Lake Nemaha. Her sister, Gerrie, saved her life by diving in after her and pulling her out of the deep water. She says that after that she had a severe fear of water. Her father insisted that she overcome her fear and learn to swim. She developed a love for swimming that she enjoyed right up until this week.

Janice loved the outdoors and many sporting activities. Her experience as a Girl Scout for many years made her familiar with camping. She and her siblings spent many hours on the tennis court and her dad would watch them from the front porch and give them tips on how to improve. She also enjoyed playing trombone next to her dad in the Seneca city band.

The Seneca Hospital was a tribute to Janice’s grandmother Koelzer. The town was without a hospital and she organized the women in the town to raise money to build one. The hospital was then served by the Sisters of St. Joseph who became very important in her life.

Lake Nemaha also played a very important role in her formation. Her family lived at the lake each summer, and, in fact, that is where she got to know the Sisters of St. Joseph. They would come to the lake for picnics and Janice would take them for boat rides. She said that they had a good time and seemed to enjoy life.

While in high school, Janice had an assignment to write a story about her vocation. She wrote that she wanted to be a missionary in a foreign country some day. After one semester at the University of Kansas, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. In her letter of request, she said that she would like to be a missionary, and she was told that the Sisters were hoping to open a mission in Brazil. She entered in February 1953.

As a Sister and a nursing student at Marymount College, Sister Janice said, “I had additional learning experiences by working weekends. We didn’t have days off. I helped wherever needed. I assisted Sister Climacus in the pharmacy, Sister Cordelier in the laboratory, and others in the Emergency Room and Central Supply. I had many experiences not required by the curriculum.”

She graduated with her bachelor of nursing degree in the spring of 1958. She then taught Fundamentals of Nursing to the students in the Marymount College Diploma Program.

In 1963 she received her master’s degree in nursing from Marquette University and returned to Salina to learn that she would be teaching Pediatric Nursing in the fall. Since she had no preparation to teach the nursing care of children, she went to Cardinal Glennon’s Children’s Hospital in St. Louis in the summer.

Sister Janice always used her nursing education generously for the service of others. She had a heart for ministry and knew that was her call from God. During the 1960s, she not only taught in the Marymount program, but she was also Dorm Director and Campus Nurse.

In the summer of 1976, she made a 30-day directed retreat at Hale’s Corner in Wisconsin. Two years later she left teaching and moved to Manhattan, Kan., where she was pastoral assistant. Her duties included visiting the sick and training other adults to visit the sick and become Eucharistic Ministers.

In 1988 she moved to Kansas City to start the Duchesne Clinic for the poor who had no medical insurance and couldn’t afford the regular fees of doctor visits. After six years there, the clinic was serving up to 700 patients a month.

She was then invited to join Sister Lucy Schneider at the Motherhouse as Coordinator of Community Services. She said that she enjoyed the fuller participation in the community and knew that was where she was being called to serve at that time.

After five years at the Motherhouse, she moved to Medaille Center in Salina. In 1997 she was diagnosed with lymphoma and began chemotherapy. She also participated in some experimental treatment programs hoping that it would help find more options for the treatment of cancer. Even there, she offered herself to help others.

At Janice’s 50th Jubilee, it was said of her that her “true joy of heart” manifests itself in the way she lives her life: her serene presence, sense of humor, and love of nature, good plays, movies, sports (KU basketball in particular) and swimming. Her generosity in helping others teaches us all to accept what is and live our lives with joy of heart and deep gratitude.

In her recent years at the Motherhouse, she has continued to live out that claim. In fact, I believe she has exemplified Maxim 91 in her life:

    “Be a person of such greatness that what is not God will be nothing, and embrace gently and eagerly great apostolic undertakings when the Holy Spirit urges you to do this; but, according to this same maxim, whatever you do or suffer, let your heart find it a trifle, as indeed it is, in comparison with the grandeur of God’s sovereign perfection.”

Sister Janice, you snuck out on us! We didn’t get to say our last “goodbyes.”

Yet in the events of Wednesday evening, you recognized the God whom you loved and served all of your life — you chose the better part, and we would not take that from you.

Yet we will look for signs of your presence to us in days to come, and rely on your help.
• • • • • • •

Memorials for Sister Janice Koelzer may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia KS 66901. To make an online donation in Sister Janice’s memory, click on the button below:



6 Responses to “Eulogy for Sister Janice Koelzer: June 20, 1934-Sept. 1, 2016”

  1. Sherron Pace on October 24th, 2016 10:57 pm

    I first met Sr. Jan in 1972 when she was teaching at Marymount and in the hospital with students. She and I and my 2yr old daughter became good friends until I moved to Utah and we lost touch. I’m sorry I missed out on many yrs. You were a wonderful example and friend. RIP

  2. Diane Brin on October 8th, 2016 11:04 am

    Marilyn, thank you so much for the eulogy and life review of Janice. She was a special friend and a nursing friend.
    Her love of Pediatrics was visible to all she served–children, students and parents alike. Her calming presence assuaged many fears.

  3. Anita M. Kobuszewski on September 12th, 2016 3:35 pm

    Thank you for your kind words, Sr. Wall.

    I just learned of Sr. Janice’s death at 1130 this morning after talking briefly to a nurse at the motherhouse. Sr. Janice had invited to me to plan a weekly stop at the motherhouse, starting tonight, to have the evening meal together with her before I’d head to band rehearsal at the local college. She got her wish to go ~”out without fanfare.”

    Sr. Janice was a very special friend and spiritual facilitator to me over the past five years or so….I first met her at Marymount College in 1976 when she was the resident dorm director.

    Taking her up on a generous offer to allow me to live w/ the SJS in Manhattan, KS (I was telling her I just needed a quiet place to study and to rest my head) while in grad school at KSU in 1985 to making my Maltese, Juliette an honorary service dog on 25 April 2016 (cosigned by Fr. Hoover who just happened to be walking in the entrance to the Motherhouse that day)…to introducing me to the works of Thomas Merton….which she said was her “favorite”….and much more….Sr. meant so much to me. The first and would be my last golf cart ride / tour around the motherhouse grounds with Sr. Janice at the helm is my last memory of her on Earth.

    Sr. Janice….RIP my friend. I will always love you. Anita, and Juliette (the service dog)

  4. Marilyn Stahl on September 3rd, 2016 9:47 am

    Marilyn, your eulogy was word perfect. Jan is as close and personal to me right now as she always was..Jan will be with us alway: wearing her KU T-shirts, winning at bridge and taking semi-trusting me sailing in a tiny boat at Kanopolis Lake.

  5. Jodi Creten on September 3rd, 2016 8:37 am

    Thanks, Marilyn, for your reflections on a life fully lived in Janice. My her serene presence continue to unfold in our community.

  6. Missy Ljungdahl on September 2nd, 2016 9:49 pm

    Marilyn, thanks for the wonderful tribute to a great person. You summed up a life well lived and graced. Janice is really missed!

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